Texas deer hunters should be aware that in 2-buck counties, including Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, and others, “special antler restrictions” are included in state hunting laws, according to regulations specified by Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Spike bucks, or those with “at least one unbranched antler,” remain legal to take in these counties, but all other legal bucks must have “an inside spread measurement between main beams of 13 inches or greater.”
The rule of thumb in Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Outdoor Annual outlines that the outer tips of the ears are “approximately 13 inches apart and may be used to judge the inside spread.”
According to the Outdoor Annual’s illustration, the outer tips of the buck’s ears, in the alert position, must line up with the tip of the outer-most or middle point of his antlers’ main beam. This point also lines up with the lower area of the main beam from which all the outer antler points branch out. In other words, in order for a buck with more than one branched antler to be legally taken, the outer-most part of his antlers must extend out past his ears.
These relatively new regulations have been a part of state deer hunting laws for several years now and, in spite of their good long-term intentions, have stirred up some controversy among hunters.
The stated and fairly obvious intention of lawmakers, with these regulations, is to protect a segment of the younger buck population from over-hunting, allowing for an eventually greater number of fully matured bucks, animals that have been lacking in numbers in certain counties in recent years under former regulations.
The controversy comes with hunters’ questions such as, “Why are the youngest bucks (spikes) legal, while slightly older bucks (most 4-pointers, 6-pointers, and small or average 8-pointers) are now illegal to take?”
I’ve found myself in comical discussions among area deer hunters where the scenario is introduced that a buck is not going to wait for you to exit your deer stand, then kindly wait for you to reach him and gauge his antler spread with a tape measure to ensure he’s legal to shoot. Most hunters I’ve talked with simply see this as an extra and unwelcome challenge to an already challenged practice.
Another consideration is , aside from a spike, a deer now legal to harvest would be considered the trophy of a lifetime for some areas of the regulations’ affected counties.
This is definitely an issue that has produced varied opinions.
It should also be noted that current law also states an antler point is only considered a legal point if it is at least 1 inch in length. So, that old rule of thumb that says, “If you can hang a ring on it, it’s a point,” is no longer such a relevant rule. That is, unless you happen to have really large fingers!
What do you think?